Snoring Through Communion (in Holy Week)

This one was written by Samuel Son. My middle schooler son, Ian, was snoring on […]

Guest Contributor / 3.28.18

This one was written by Samuel Son.

My middle schooler son, Ian, was snoring on stage as the bread of Christ was being passed. This was not a pastor-parent’s worst nightmare, lingering for a minute when I woke up, then fading out as I fell back to sleep. This was Palm Sunday, a few days ago, at Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church. Oh, and across from Ian was his younger sister, Elina, who swilled the blood of Christ, and then promptly spat it out, screaming “Yuck!” She slammed the communion shot glass on the floor, because it was her first taste of real wine and not the Welch’s white grape juice meant for children. She was also on stage.

The morning had started off well. Elina slung her cello over her shoulder, and Ian grabbed his clarinet, and we left 8:30am on Sunday morning — an amazing parental feat. They went to play in the mixed-age Sunday worship orchestra, with their mother playing first violinist. I was a proud father and looked at my youngest, who was sitting with me, and I told him, “You’re next, so pick an instrument.”

My children are beginners, but the orchestra had a great conductor and gifted musicians who helped pull along stray and flat notes. That morning, my children sounded better than during their practices at home. I was even able to hear Ian, who opened my ears to the subtle complexity of a clarinet tone.

As the worship progressed, I was worried about whether they could sit still on the stage for the length of the worship. They got more fidgety as we moved to the sermon. The sermon, thankfully, was short and sweet and they made it through without any accidents. It was at the Great Thanksgiving, before the Eucharist, when things went sour. Somewhere between “Remembering all your mighty and merciful acts” and “Great is the mystery of faith,” Ian’s neck arched backwards, his nostril flared, and he began to snore as if the sanctuary were his bedroom and the stage his bed. But no one shook him awake. They let him just snore on.

And when the servers came with the bread of Christ, they didn’t wake him either. But when the bread began making its way back, Ian woke up. It could have been the Holy Spirit, or the whiff of the bread — his nose gets sharp like a canine’s when his stomach growls. He asked for the bread. And the servers, showing not an iota of annoyance, went back to him and presented the plate to this latecomer: “This is the body of Christ.”

And when Elina spat out the wine because she was expecting the sweetness of juice and not the bitterness of alcohol, a server went back to the table and brought a vial of grape juice, and to the girl who just spat out the blood of Christ, she said, “This is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”

Two days after, Paul Huh, an associate pastor at Harvey Brown, mentioned this event to me, saying, “That is hospitality. When the unexpected happens, that’s where grace abounds! It was beautiful.”

I would have never used those words to describe that morning’s fiasco, until he provided the correct interpretation. He gave me new eyes for that event. And got me thinking. No one at the Last Supper, around that first Eucharist table, knew what they were doing. Certainly they didn’t deserve it. But Jesus broke his body and shared his blood anyway. Even Judas got a bite and a drink before he left to sell Jesus for a down-payment on a house.

To remember Christ at the communion table is more than remembering the words of the institution. It is about remembering Christ’s unconditional acceptance of the other, his giving to those who are not ready — and maybe never will be ready — to understand the gift, like those grace-vessel servants who carried the tray with the hands of Christ.